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What about my peanut butter? March 2, 2009

Posted by Nora in Environmental Health, Global Health.

I feel that as an American, I am often outraged at slips in our system, for example, the recent contamination of a particular brand of peanut butter by salmonella. However, I recently learned some information that managed put my outrage into perspective.

So, as you are drinking from your water bottle, as I am now, consider this. In Sub Saharan Africa,  the provision of adequate drinking water and sanitation remains a huge issue– in fact, 2.5 billion individuals are not provided with sanitation services. In addition, diarrheal diseases, which have been prevented to such a degree in our country that mortality from these diseases is not even ranked–are one of the top causes of morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.  Some may say, well more people than ever have been provided with water in the area due to the International Water Supply and Sanitation decade, why are people still dying? Well, water without sanitation becomes, to some degree, irrelevant. Sanitation deals with wastewater and solid waste, its main aim is to prevent sewage contamination of drinking water. Unfortunately, clean water alone leads to only minor health improvements. The essential factor is sound personal hygiene (or breaking the fecal oral transmission route), with adequate public sanitation and clean water as supporting components. For example, when latrine coverage in an area exceeds 60%, household’s benefit whether or not they have a latrine.

Are you staring at your water– trying to discover , as I did, whether it has been contaminated? Rest assured, American citizens are protected by the EPA, and their Clean Water Act (although unfortunately, we are far from being totally protected according to the washington post). So, if you learn anything from this blog, learn that there are human beings that suffer quite a bit in this world, and as public health professionals, we shouldnt lose sight of these people  in our  attempt to improve the public health of our citizens.



1. davemaz - March 3, 2009

So – last time I worked in water testing (as a public health microbiologist) there really were no standards by which bottled water regulated (at least in my state). We know what the Safe Drinking Water Act requires of public water systems – why do we feel assured that bottled water systems are as well regulated?

The second point is this. That FDA does a pretty good job of regulation, except for the issues related to manpower, etc. However, my experience is that USDA has a considerable problem with conflict of interest. They are here to promote agriculture and agricultural products, and view regulation of agriculture as a necessary evil. I agree with the idea of consolidation, and that consolidation should NOT be in the agency which promotes the product.

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